This is almost as dorky as it is insane: the video above shows the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset paired with an omnidirectional treadmill that allows gamers to physically run around their favourite first-person games.
Forget the PS4 and Xbox 720; this looks like the true next-generation gaming innovation that gamers have been crying out for.
For those unfamiliar with Oculus Rift, it’s a successfully Kickstarter-funded PC gaming peripheral that pops two screens infront of gamers eyes in a headset, allowing them to turn the camera and see the game world in immersive 3D right in front of their eyes, just by turning their heads as they would in real life.
The video above sees the Oculus Rift kit paired with a Virtuix Omni omnidirectional treadmill, which, rather than using a gamepad to input movement controls into games, allows a user to run around in 360-degrees within a game whilst wearing the Oculus Rift headset, with movements tracked by a Microsoft Kinect sensor. A version of the treadmill with integrated motion tracking is also planned, as is one that can recognise different movement speeds rather than the binary one in use in the video above.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a peripheral demo that looks more immersive than the video above, even if it is a little silly – it’s as close as you’re going to get to navigating a game world without getting sucked into the Matrix, Tron-style. Both items are some way off yet from hitting consumer shelves, and while the Oculus Rift is expected to be an affordable unit, there’s no telling how much the treadmill will cost, not to mention the space requirements it needs.
However, it’s certainly an innovative approach to game play, and one that would silence those that believe video games are for couch potatoes! It brings to mind the early virtual reality systems of the 90s which, while impressive in ambition, were ultimately let down by rubbish games. Considering Oculus Rift will likely be able to interface with the vast majority of first-person PC games, this could prove to be the holy grail of virtual reality finally done right.